In A Certain Light and other poems

In A Certain Light and other poems

Three poems by Summer Edward, who teaches writing and communications at The University of the West Indies as part of World Poetry/Prose Portfolio [WPP], curated by Sudeep Sen

In A Certain Light

It is an innocuous world ―
the fruit that hangs above us, 
sweet, ripe, dangling low, 
waiting for our hands to slice 
the sunlight, reaching up 
through leaves like green 
udders dripping translucent milk,
is the most perilous thing I know. 

Aside from that, in a certain light 
this whole world becomes 
simpler than a pang of hunger. 
In a certain light all is palpable, 
the mystery fades, the lover in us 
dies, and in dying, can escape. 
It is only then that I, waiting 
at the threshold of your certain light,
am ever truly afraid. 

Horror Vacui

Trinidad, 2018

Driving back from Chaguanas,
you get lost somewhere in Waterloo.
Dusk descending, a gesso of ash.
In the dizzying fields like carousels, 
are horses, calm, wooden, raising 
lambent tails like paintbrushes.
Your tires’ calliopeic strain
lifts the sky’s detached canvas,
and you alone appear to share 
the cattle egret’s sudden panic. 
Why bother to speak of the country, 
of how, among the vanishing things,
the highway feels like salvation? 
This getting lost feels like hell, 
all this bush a revenant of past bush, 
the land reft, revealing no details
despite our compassing wrongs; turn 
then, mimic what must be God’s 
elaborate amusement. Park, and read 
your map of fears with godlike pity, 
before you drive on, determined 
to find your way, to learn something 
of your labyrinth, your country. 
Nature abhors a vacuum. 
Yet still somehow you must enter
the province of emptiness; wayfinder 
that you are, you must live with 
the ghost of beauty who drives you, 
who sits with you in your car,
who drove your people to their horror.
You too are the ghost, the lost traveller
roaming the undrawn hills, 
as if they, only, were your island.

Lovesong of the Schuylkill 

Philadelphia, 2014

I. The Goose

On the banks of the Schuylkill 
this evening, July’s house 
sits ablaze at every window. 

Breasting goose 
exiting a vestibule of the river, 
head bowed in innocence, 
crosses my eyes’ 
hanging scroll like Jingzhao’s 
mountainous cranes. 

I am weary of finding you 
on the verge of love. 
Like today, you sang of travels; 
I knew I would fly 
to this staying shore 
again, to regain perspective, 
as darkening boathouses 
regain theirs for every season’s 
work of art. 

II. Spring

On Schuylkill shores 
branches are still 
naked like lovers after love, 
inky infinitude, The Moated Grange

This is another opus 
of the same sun I left behind, 
tumbling in the arms 
of brooding El Tucuche.

Nature is divested, 
dispossessed in her 
duty, ignoring latitude. 
Whatever the frame,
a picture will be painted.

III. A Picnic with the Goose

Earlier that year,
I made a picnic with the Goose.
A season when I sat for hours 
ignoring the runners 
chasing summer down 
the river trail. 

He came up from the river, 
sat at my feet 
like a waking dream. 
I thought of the songbird 
draped in history, 
the illustrated drake, 
yet you are the one 
that pleases me.

Bird of my breast, 
black bird, I want 
to capture you 
in my moss-lined cage. 
The look of one 
who would defy bars, 
nightly ascend towers, 
enter gardens swift. 

So modestly you pried 
your beak, made searching 
calls betraying 
strong knowledge 
of rugged worlds.  

I wanted to clip you 
right away, pinion you 
to my nest of hair.

IV. A Vision of Lenape Women

Yet when evening birds 
rise above the Schuylkill, 
I rise from the dream
of the captive.

East Falls, October chills. 
Standing on the truss bridge, a vision: 
Lenape women in fields of maize.
Did they work and praise 
these river banks, to Manaiunk, 
“where we go to drink”?

Dreamlike, I enter 
Gast's allegory; Columbia 
hovers above the river,
schoolbook clasped 
against her breast, ancient 
drapes admitting one 
alabaster leg. 

Lenape, nation 
that honored women. 
Wolf women, turkey sisters, turtle aunts.
Women sprouted from the first 
tree, proud 
clan mothers, the earth’s 
red ochre lifeways 
in their veins, who knew secrets 
of millstones, braided cords, smoke fires.

Now October reports 
of a flaxen maid 
floating in dead waters, 
new indigenous crime.
Columbia floating 
in a river with a murderous name.

Nightly, the sky hangs 
lanterns above these waters,
for drowning women.

V. The Pyre

River, golden mintage 
between ancient banks.

Goldenrod, firethorn, 
pyre of flame
gathering offerings 
in every season.

All the fire you fed 
at autumn’s birth. 

VI. The Rower

One day, snapping photos, 
I caught in the shutter 
the lone rower at sunset 
threading the golden silk. 

Head back again to the jungle of life, 
to the full-blown flower, 
the undrainable brook. 
Again your soft stern, 
the jungle's fast flight.
Upstream to the sun that flees 
taking the light
one day at a time, 
the jungle opening its center, 
full of interior mystery.

All rivers begin at the hips of jungles.

VII. The Wedding

Evening, behind the art museum.
In spruce gardens, 
from the overhanging hill, 
I witness a parable of joy: 
a wedding set 
to Gatsby-era melody.

An hour’s fading
Neoclassical light; 
the Waterworks Restaurant 
cooled like cake: 
mill house, engine house, caretaker’s house,
Grecian sculptures in peach fondant.

My eyes watered 
the moving scene, 
an ancient tableau vivant sprang to life. 
Then I saw how each structure 
was the symbol of a life. 

For what is this life 
but conspiracy 
of motion, time’s secret 
foundation, love’s soft
-singing turbines clearing 
centuries of cosmic waters 
for nuptial waiters, 
costumed players 
who would dance all night 
beneath a pavilion of stars? 

I thought I saw the ghost 
of the Caretaker 
wandering among the guests. 
I went on my way, unseen 
wheel turning my blood. 

When I turned 
at the top of the hill, 
it was gone. 

VIII. Queen of Rivers

And I turn and dream 
of African rivers, sinuous 
water bodies, fever trees 
thickening on shores, wagtails
bedded in leaves, gold-and-blue 
kingfishers swooping down 
from fig trees to clasp fish.
Rivers running bold through 
Death’s valleys, swelling hot 
in sea-green grottoes.
I want to rest in the gentle arms 
of mother rivers: Nile, 
Limpopo, Congo, Zambezi. 
To sleep in swaddle 
like the baby prophet 
pillowed through the reeds.

When pursued by lecherous gods
profess the Greeks, artless 
maidens were changed
into watercourses, wells; 
and this is holiness?

If I were Queen, had my way, 
I would divert choice rivers.
Not Lethe, Oceanus, old man Stynx, 
his unclean beard, his serpent’s tail.

I would be protector of young, 
unknown rivers, freshwater bodies
abandoned to penetration 
of harpoons, pearls ravaged by robbers.

If I could be Queen of any 
landform, let it be rivers.

IX. Love’s Dream 

But here in Schuylkill’s 
frigid courts,
I see I have left 
warm rivers behind.

At night I have the dream 
where all the rivers flow 
together into one.

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